United States
                          Environmental Protection
                          Agency
                       Office of Water
                       4601
EPA 811-F-9 5-002 f- T
      October 1995
   &EPA
National  Primary
Water Regulations
Nitrates and Nitrites
  CHEMICAL/ PHYSICAL PROPERTIES
  CAS Number: Nitrate ion: 14797-55-8; Nitrite ion:. 14797-65-0

  COLOR/ FORM/ODOR: Domestic fertilizer grade ammonium or
    potassium nitrates are in prilled (beaded) or crystalline
    forms, usually coated with an anti-caking agent and ad-
    sorbed fuel oil.

  SOLUBILITIES: Nitrates and nitrites are highly soluble in water
                  SOIL SORPTION COEFFICIENT: N/A

                  BlOCONCENTRATION FACTOR: N/A

                  TRADE NAMES/SYNONYMS:

                   Potassium salt: Potnit, Hitec, Niter, Nitrate of potash, Saltpeter.

                   Ammonium salt: German or Norway saltpeter, Varioform I,
                    Merco or Herco prills, Nitram.
DRINKING WATER STANDARDS (IN MG/L)
MCLG MCL HAL(10day)
Nitrate: . 10 10 10
Nitrite- 11 1
1 ill 11 llw> III
Total (Nitrate+Nitrite) 10 10 10

HEALTH EFFECTS SUMMARY

Acute: Excessive levels of nitrate in drinking water
have caused serious illness and sometimes death. The
serious illness in infants is due to the conversion of
nitrate to nitrite by the body, which can interfere with the
oxygen-carrying capacity of the child's .blood. This can
be an acute condition in which health deteriorates rap- ;
idly over a period of days: Symptoms include shortness
of breath and bluepess of the skin. , -
Drinking water levels which are considered "safe" for
*^ .
short-term exposures: For a 1 0-kg (22 Ib.) child consum-
ing 1 liter of water per day, a ten-day exposure to 10mg/
L total nitrate/nitrite. >
Chronic: Effects of chronic exposure to high levels of
nitrate/nitrite include diuresis, increased starchy depos-
its and hemorrhaging of the spleen.
Cancer:There is inadequate evidence to state whether
or not nitrates or nitrites have the potential to cause
cancer from lifetime exposures in drinking water.

.
USAGE PATTERNS
Most nitrogenous materials in natural waters tend to
be converted to nitrate, so all sources of combined
nitrogen, particularly organic nitrogen and ammonia,
. ; 
Tbxrc RELEASE INVENTORY -
RELEASES TO WATER AND LAND:
Water
TOTALS (in pounds) 59,014,378

Top Fifteen States*
GA 12,114,253
CA 0
AL ' - 3.463.097
LA 8,778,237
MO eigssisgo
MS 6.952,387
KS 5,140,000
VA 5,091.764
NV 0
FL 1.056.560
AR 1.206.610
MD . 1,802,219
IA 1 500 340
l^ I y%^V\4|%^^T\/
OK 1.436,348
UT .0
Major Industries*
Nitrogenous fertilizer 41,584,611
Misc. Ind. inorganics 4,113,312
Misc. Metal ores -  0.
Misc. Ind. organics 5,091 ,764
Fertilizer mixing 480,000
 Explosives 850,921
Paper mills . 1,727,061
. Pulp mills 1,321,500
Canned foods 0
Phosphate fertilizers 1 ,000,000

.
1987 TO 1993
Land
53.134,805


12,028,585 '
21,840,999
6.014.674
2250
y^WV
206,181
0
877,095
0
l!835',736
1,058.294
138.819
132042
I \f^m | V^ fc
14,199
1,045.400
8.607.376
29,676,919
5,764.976
0
4.554,916
1,297,590
0
-3.350
1,056,794
0
* State/Industry totals only include facilities with releases
greater than 1 0,000 IDS.

. October 1995
            Technical Version
 Printed on Recycled Paper

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should be'considered as potential nitrate sources. Pri-
mary sources of organic nitrates include human sewage
and livestock manure, especially from feedlots.
  The primary inorganic nitrates which may contaminate
drinking water are potassium nitrate  and ammonium
nitrate. Potassium nitrates are used mainly as fertilizers
(85%), with the remainder in heat transfer salts, glass and
ceramics, and in  matches and fireworks. Ammonium
nitrates are used as fertilizers (84%) and in explosives
and blasting agents (16%).
RELEASE PATTERNS
  The major environmental releases of inorganic sources
of njtrates are due to the use of fertilizers.
  According to the Toxics Release Inventory, releases to
water and land totalled over  112 million pounds from
1991 through 1993. The largest releases of inorganic
nitrates occurred in Georgia and California.

ENVIRONMENTAL FATE
  Due to its high solubility and weak retention by soil,
nitrates are very mobile in soil, moving at approximately
the same rate as water, and has a high potential to
migrate to ground water. Because it does not volatilize,
nitrate/nitrite is likely to remain in water until consumed by
plants or other organisms. Ammonium nitrate  will be
taken up by bacteria. Nitrate is more persistent in water
tnan the ammonium ion. Nitrate degradation is fastest in
anaerobic conditions.
         OTHER REGULATORY INFORMATION
         MONITORING:
         FOR GROUND WATER SOURCES:
          INITIAL FREQUENCY-   Nitrate: 1 sample annually
                           Nitrite: 1 sample during first 3-year compliance
                               period
          REPEAT FREQUENCY-   Nitrate: 1 sample annually
                           Nitrite: determined by State
         FOR SURFACE WATER SOURCES:
          INITIAL FREQUENCY- - Nitrate: 1 sample each quarter
                           Nitrite: 1 sample during first 3-year compliance
                               period
          REPEAT FREQUENCY-   Nitrate: 1 sample annually
                           Nitrite: determined by State
         TRIGGERS -   If detect at > 5 mg/L nitrate, sample quarterly.  
                    If detect at > 0.5 mg/L nitrite, sample quarterly.
                    If detect total nitrate + nitrite > 5 mg/L, sample quarterly
                                                          ANALYSIS:
                                                          REFERENCE SOURCE
                                                          EPA 600/4-79-020
                                                          Standard Methods
                                                          ASTM
                                    NlETHODNUMBERS
                                    353.1; 353.2; 353.3; 300.0; 354.1
                                    418C;418F
                                    D3867-85A; D3867-85B
                                                           TREATMENT
                                                           BEST AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGIES
                                                           Ion exchange; Reverse osmosis; Electrodialysis (nitrate only)


                                                           FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
                                                           6  EPA can provide further regulatory and.other general information:
                                                            EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline - 800/426-4791
                                                           *  Other sources of lexicological and environmental fate data include:
                                                            Toxic Substance Control Act Information Line - 202/554-1404
                                                            Toxics Release Inventory, National Library of Medicine - 301/496-6531
                                                            Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - 404/639-6000
 October 1995
Technical Version
Page 2

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